Our new briefing sets out the key challenges Brexit may bring for housing associations and how we can be ready for what may come.
Kate Henderson is Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation
24 January 2019
It feels impossible to predict the future at the moment. As I type this, I realise that anything I write about Brexit may quickly become out of date. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a go – and that we can’t be preparing for what may come.
We can start by understanding some of the key challenges Brexit, particularly the potential of a No Deal Brexit, may bring for housing.
They break down into three main areas.
First, it may be harder to build homes. Economic uncertainty makes it harder to borrow money. A slowing housing market makes it more difficult to cross-subsidise affordable homes by selling homes on the market. If private development stalls, fewer affordable homes will get built through section 106. And it might be less easy to get hold of key materials if there is disruption to trade and supply chains.
Second, it may be harder to recruit vital staff and future-proof our workforces. This might affect development too – I know some of our members are already seeing a shortage of skilled contractors – but it could have an even more serious impact on care and support services, which rely heavily on staff from EU nations.
Third, funding. The European Social Fund and others have injected much-needed cash into vital community services that housing associations and others provide. As our Great Places commission argues in its interim report, it’s essential that this funding is replaced, and that we take seriously the need to rebalance the nation’s fractured economy.
So, if these are the challenges, what we can do to prepare?
Clearly, the Government has a major role to play, and we’re talking to ministers, shadow ministers and officials about the action and support you need.
Housing associations are in a fantastic position to keep housebuilding moving in a possible downturn and will be the community anchors that make sure services and support get to where they’re most needed. But they cannot do this alone. They will need as much certainty as possible, the right kind of funding, and policy designed to protect key workforces and create frictionless trade of crucial materials.
I know that housing associations are also planning ahead. In my conversations with members over the past few months, you’ve talked about stress testing your business plans, talking to suppliers of vital materials and thinking about what support tenants might need.
Our new Brexit briefing sets out more detail on the challenges, what housing associations can be doing to prepare and how the Federation is supporting this.
So, what next? None of us really knows. But I do know that the work of our sector is critical and enduring.
No matter what the outcome of Brexit, our ambition to provide good quality housing at a price people can afford will continue. In fact, it may be needed more than ever.
If you have any questions about the Federation's work on Brexit, please contact Will Jeffwitz on Will.Jeffwitz@housing.org.uk.